Meating halfway: Helsingborg’s köttbåten

Much like the “booze cruise” ferries, Köttbåten is all about overindulgence—you won’t make much of a saving if you just have a sausage or two.

Committed carnivores will likely find their favoured foods to be pretty pricey in Skåne, as in the rest of Sweden. You can blame that on the tax levied on high-carbon foods from the 2030s.

If you’re unimpressed by this transposition of morality into taxation, however—and you’re not alone, if that is the case—or if you appreciate the principle while still also appreciating an occasional binge on animal protein, then you’ll be relieved to know that there’s a place you can go to get your affordable fix of flesh…though it involves leaving the country, if only technically.

Ferry journeys in the Nordic and Baltic countries have long been associated with the excess permitted by international waters, providing a space in which not only are the hefty taxes on alcohol suspended, but the licensing hours more lax. The brief ferry ride between Helsingborg and her Danish sister-town Helsingør—home of Hamlet’s castle!—has long been a prime example, allowing passengers to sail back and forth for most of the day without ever leaving the bar, let alone the boat.

In more recent years, an enterprising local found a similar opportunity in what is colloquially known as the “meat tax”: if one can have duty-free booze, why not duty-free beef or bacon? The owner of this floating restaurant, which bears the blunt name of Köttbåten (“the meat boat”), was one of the key figures in the protest movement against the high-carbon foods tax, which instantly increased the price of meats like pork and beef by more than 100% in some cases. While the subsequent subsidy scheme for low-carbon foods, directed at addressing the regressive effects of the meat tax, eased some of the resistance, local meat connoisseurs and activists in Skåne still demanded measures ensuring the survival of classic local cuisines and farming practices. Skåne’s regional government—which is far from being a unified clan of vegan socialists, despite the campaign leaflets you may have seen claiming otherwise!—met the protesters halfway by establishing a tax-free zone in which the boat could operate, in the liminal space of the Öresund Strait where Denmark’s and Sweden’s borders meet.

(Rumour has it that this was a way to keep the boat out of the regional carbon budget, but no one has ever managed to confirm or deny this story—and we really don’t advise raising the topic mid-cruise, either)

Much like the “booze cruise” ferries, Köttbåten is all about overindulgence—you won’t make much of a saving if you just have a sausage or two. And the flipside of the suspended tax is that the counterbalancing subsidies are also suspended… so bringing a vegan friend could work out hideously expensive, assuming you could even convince them to climb aboard.

Nonetheless, the meat (and the meals made with it) are reputed to be top-notch, and it’s something of a local institution. So here’s what you need to know:

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